Although Moran was 16 and I was only four, we often hung out since there were no other neighbors our own ages. Moran must have been very bored because she spent hours working with me. It is not easy for a child that age who has not developed hand to eye coordination to manipulate a thick baton through her fingers. Moran was a good teacher because fairly soon I was twirling and marching.
Moran was in the 11th grade and was one of four twirlers for the high band led by Claud Knieff. After I became adequate at twirling, Moran asked my mother to bring me to the high school for a band practice. She introduced me to her band director and had me "try out". My memory of that day is dim but I share this based on my parents' account of the story. Claud was impressed, and asked me to be the band's mascot.
My mother who had always loved to dress me up got busy arranging for the uniform I was to wear. The lady who designed and made the majorettes' uniforms made a replica for me. Daddy bought two regular sized batons & cut them off for me. Mother painted the balls grey and put glitter on them.
I am sure that I was never scared or had stage fright. I thought I was as big as the other majorettes, and I had my first crush in life on the tall handsome drum major named Don Tate. His picture in my 1950 yearbook has my 5 year old lip prints from where I kissed him so much.
After googling the gentleman's name, I realized he had played football in 1949-50 for Stephenville High School while I was prancing around as the little mascot. Small world. He had no idea it was me when he made the request. I also remembered a cousin had married a man by the same name so I asked him, and he said that was true but they divorced many years ago.
His name is Ben Jackson, and he is a successful, well-known golf coach/trainer. Small world. Ben began playing golf when he was a kid on the same golf course my parents played every day, and the greens, fairways, tees, and clubhouse were my babysitters as they played. They thought nothing of leaving all of us (kids of the golfers) together in a group while they played.
Ben Jackson said he didn't have the old 1949 & 1950 yearbooks anymore, so I offered to scan pictures for him. He was grateful to see himself in his old football pose.
After I sent a picture to Ben of comments by his football picture, I noticed that next to him in the picture was Stick Morris, and my heart dropped. I won't go into the whole story now but will add a link to an article in the Stephenville Empire Tribune written by J.Louis Evans about the tragic life of a man who was injured in a football practice on the very same field where I marched as well as the same year I marched. Stick was paralyzed at the early age of 16 for the rest of his life and had many more unfortunate things happen to him and his parents. http://www.yourstephenvilletx.com/article_8ba12fab-602e-5418-8ef8-4b8d1b7965c0.html
This morning I awoke to another message to me on Facebook concerning this same subject.
In 2000 I moved to Granbury and met so many wonderful people. It was the first time I had lived away from Stephenville in my life, and I was ecstatic to feel so free. One of the first people I met was Dorothy, and we became instant friends. We had a fun adventure when Dorothy talked me into going to Wheel of Fortune tryouts for Best Friends' Week.
Dorothy is an expert WOF player, so we were very hyped that we would be picked. Well, we were not picked because they were drawing names at random instead of truly auditioning contestants. Dorothy and I felt our 15 minutes of fame was not going to happen. I didn't know why at the time, but Dorothy and I were seeking the spotlight. We both felt it.
In all of the many conversations Dorothy and I have had over the years, we never once mentioned to each other that we were little mascots of a high school band. Because of the exchanges and threads this weekend on Facebook, Dorothy was inspired to find her picture of herself when she was a band mascot for a small Texas town in the 1950's. She posted it on my Facebook page this morning. Oh, what fun! I have always wondered and wanted to find others who had this same rare experience I had as a child.
Unless someone has experienced such extreme attention and "fame" at an early age, I'm not sure they can understand what it does to a child's development. Most of it was positive. I have only good memories but the expectations it sets up for a child later in life may not be advantageous. We spend our lives thinking more glory and adoration is right around the corner. Sometimes it is but never seems to measure up to that feeling we had early on of the crowd, cheers, and applause.
My best trick was twirling two batons at once while going on my back. I can't describe it. I just did it. Hearing the crowd cheer and knowing people all over your small town are discussing your performance warps your mind. My mom quoted to me once too often that "All the little girls in Stephenville want to be just like you, and they are naming their dolls Judy Kay." A child believes it when they hear words like that whether they are true or not.
When you are growing up and trying to fit in, yet adults keep referring to you as the "little mascot", its not easy. I had many friends who were my peers but the three girls in my class who were maybe jealous of me made my growing up life a living hell. I wanted so much to be their friends, too, so "everyone" would like me but nothing I could do would make them accept me. Even as adults, when I am in their presence, I am still uncomfortable and hoping for their approval. It took me many years to get over my perception that something must be wrong with me if these sharp-tongued girls didn't like me.
I am 69 now and live in another state. I have never been happier and wouldn't change anything in my life. Here's my friend and fellow mascot Dorothy. I know She understands.